FOR many youngsters who have experienced a tough start to life, the future can often look bleak and unpromising.
But a social enterprise in Great Lever is helping to transform the futures of children and young adults across Greater Manchester, by providing them with an alternative to life out on the streets.
Raise The Youth Foundation, which was set up in 2011, offers a range of services for people aged 11 to 24, many of whom have had behavioural problems at school, been in trouble with the police or faced social exclusion.
These services include a state-of-the-art recording studio, where many youngsters create and produce their own tracks, as well as work experience placements, sports activities and one-to-one mentoring.
Volunteers also teach children aged 11 to 16 on core subjects such as English, Maths and ICT.
Most of the people Raise The Youth supports are from Bolton but its volunteers have also worked with youngsters from Oldham and Salford.
Alex English, who manages the recording studio at Raise The Youth, joined the enterprise in November last year, one month after it moved its premises from Farnworth to Great Lever.
When Mr English first started, the recording studio was just a portable cabin with no recording equipment.
Since then, he has overseen a complete redevelopment of the studio, including the purchase of mixing desks, computers and the installation of a DJ room, which has cost about £30,000.
He said: “It’s not just education which we provide to the kids. We are trying to improve their lives, not just their grades.
“There’s a fantastic buzz around the place. We can easily get about 40 people using the facilities every day, even during the summer holidays.”
The incentives at Raise The Youth are clear — work hard and you will reap the rewards.
There are currently three full-time paid apprentices at Raise The Youth, one of whom is Connor Stevenson.
Mr Stevenson, aged 22, of Great Lever, first joined Raise The Youth in 2011, having previously had difficulty finding work.
Now, he is a paid full-time apprentice youth worker who records and produces his own music.
He said: “This place is my life. The only thing that keeps me going in life is this studio. It gives me a purpose.
“When I came here I was getting in trouble with the police and didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then I became a volunteer and I’ve just gone from there.”
Two youngsters who have recently got on board with Raise The Youth are Tom Wordsworth, aged 16, and Adam Prince, aged 14.
Both say they are thankful for the opportunities they have been given, claiming that their futures may not have looked so bright had it not been for Raise The Youth.
Tom, of New Bury, said: “I’ve been here for two months and already I’ve tried loads of new things and met loads of new people.”
Adam, of Great Lever, said: “I used to be in trouble with the police and I’d lost family members. Then Tom said to me ‘I know something that would be perfect for you’ and I’ve not looked back.”
Jason Steele, CEO of Raise The Youth, said: “We are committed to bringing people together and helping children and young adults who are marginalised and at risk of social exclusion.”
Staff and volunteers at Raise The Youth will perform live music at the Diversity Festival in Queen’s Park on Sunday August 17, as part of The Octagon Theatre’s Switch project.
To find out more about Raise The Youth, visit www.raisetheyouth.co.uk